RCS Sidelines

March 31, 2009 2:20 PM

Bemidji State Provides March With Its Madness

Is the NCAA Tournament a little too "chalky" for you? Are you like Michael Wilbon, and "bored to tears" with the lack of upsets? Is your bracket officially busted, and now you're trying to blame it on the fact no 5-seed made it to Detroit ("This was supposed to be Utah's year!")? Then maybe the Frozen Four is for you, NCAA hockey's version of the Final Four (if you couldn't figure that out on your own).

Coming to D.C. for this year's Frozen Four: No. 1 Boston University, No. 3 Vermont, No. 4 Miami (Ohio) and No. 4 Bemidji State. While the first two might not be terribly surprising, the later two certainly are, especially the Beavers of Bemidji State.

Probably the biggest upsets of the weekend came in the Midwest Regional, where little Bemidji State, which earned an automatic tournament berth by winning the soon-to-be-defunct College Hockey America ... pulled off one of the most improbable runs to the Frozen Four. The Beavers fell behind to Cornell in the second period, but scored four straight goals to win, 4-1, in the final game of the weekend. It is the first Frozen Four trip in school history and the first for a team outside the four main conferences.
The Beavers, the lowest seed ever to play in the Frozen Four, face Miami April 9th. While they were somewhat of a hockey powerhouse at the D-II and D-III level (earned 13 NCAA tournament berths in a 16-year span from 1983-98, and captured six national championships), their success in the tournament in Division I is nearly unprecedented: their win over Notre Dame in the opening round marked just the second time a CHA team has won in the NCAA Tournament, ever.

Don't let the No. 4 seed fool you, either: that's as low as they go in the NCAA hockey tourney, and Bemidji St. was seeded at the 16th team in the tournament. There are only 16 teams total (and as of Feb. 15th, their RPI was 44th in the country, just below Canisius). To get an idea of how unlikely their run is, think George Mason, circa 2006.

Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore compared beating Cornell and making the Frozen Four to Rocky Balboa or the George Mason University basketball team that played in the 2006 Final Four.

"We're not a BCS team. Hockey has a lot of mid-major teams and there's a small margin of error. There's a lot of parity in college hockey," he said. "This is what the sport needs and it's good for it. It gives everyone out there a good feeling that it can be them some day."

The Wall St. Journal has already said that the Beavers simply making it this far "is one of the greatest upsets in collegiate sports history," and if they manage to keep the madness going, "they may become the biggest surprise of all."

While it is quite the Cinderella-story, it's tough to argue with Fresno State last year. Plus, ya know, it's just hockey.

H/T: Deadspin, the DC Sports Bog

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